Doll-making – popular the world over – is a non-traditional craft that has acquired attention as part of the Sri Lankan government’s attempts of finding new avenues of employment for the unemployed. Dominantly decorative, the craft uses common materials, especially textiles and handloom products, aiming to transform these into artistic and marketable wares that create income-generation opportunities. As more and more toys of Western origin – and also from South-east Asia – make their way into Sri Lanka, there has been a spurt of interest in this as a possible craft-option. The soft toys made in contemporary times follow Western toy-making trends and educational aims. This craft is practised mainly by women. Sri Lankan women are well-known for their stitching, knitting, and dress-making skills and so the prospects for this craft are very bright.
The products are usually toys made for children. A popular item is the rag-doll, which is made by stuffing a shape with odds and ends, and with the remnants of cloth. Teddy bears, and other soft animals like animals like pandas, dogs, rabbits, monkeys, cows, elephants, lions, and penguins are made. Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus are popular characters. These toys have a booming local market as well demand from overseas.
The raw materials for this craft are imported from Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. A healthy textile industry is essential for the growth of the stuffed toy craft. There has been an expansion of the garment industry of Sri Lanka in recent times and the handloom industry has also been rejuvenated. This has provided a lot of incentives for this craft – a variety of raw materials and accessories have become easily available.